Business

Komolafe: Downgrade threat may 'motivate' implementation of structural, policy reforms

July 19, 2017

While international credit ratings agency Moody's recently indicated that it has placed The Bahamas' Baa3 rating on review for downgrade, Chairman of the Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) Emmanuel Komolafe said there are still a few factors that work to the country's advantage.
"The fact that we have never defaulted on our obligations and the percentage of our national debt that constitutes foreign or external debt," Komolafe told Guardian Business yesterday.
"Our external debt, as a percentage of GDP, stood at 26.6 percent as at the end of 2016, according to Moody's. This is a figure that we must continue to monitor."
Komolafe did acknowledge that the Moody's downgrade threat comes "as no real surprise", given the country's economic indicators over the years.
"The systemic issues that have driven multiple downgrades of The Bahamas' credit rating over the past decade or so are not shrouded in secrecy, but have been known to us for years," he said.
On the positive front, Komolafe said the threat of this downgrade may "motivate" The Bahamas to "implement structural and policy reforms necessary to create sustainable and inclusive growth".
"There is a school of thought that is of the view that a downgrade of The Bahamas' credit rating to junk status by Moody's may not be as significant, seeing that S&P had downgraded the nation's credit rating to junk status earlier," he said.
"However, should Moody's - another major international credit rating agency - take a similar rating action, it could be construed as confirmation, or validation, of S&P's assessment and rating decision."
Komolafe pointed out that the road out of junk status to investment grade for The Bahamas will not be easy and will require "some tough decisions" to be made.
And while there are various avenues of fiscal reform, Komolafe said increasing taxes would not be one of them.
"Increasing taxes is not the panacea, because we cannot focus solely on boosting government revenue by taking money out of the private sector and further reducing the disposable income of consumers in an economy with negative to no growth," he said.
He noted that the speed at which the country regains its investment status would be "solely dependent" on the extent to which the government and other key sectors of the economy are willing to go to ensure the country's recovery.
"In order to get out of this quagmire we find ourselves in, a multifaceted and deliberate approach will need to be adopted," he contended.

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Commonwealth Brewery: Solid financial performance for 2016, positive outlook for 2017

July 19, 2017

Commonwealth Brewery Limited (CBL), the industry's leader in beer, wine and spirits distribution, served up optimism for 2017 despite a challenging economic situation for shareholders at the company's sixth annual general meeting (AGM) on June 20, reporting $117.8 million in revenue, $81.1 million in total assets, and a total comprehensive income result of $17.1 million - an increase of more than 45 percent in 2016.
More than 100 shareholders attended the AGM, re-electing members of the board including Julian Francis, who has served as chairman since the company went public in 2011; CEO and Managing Director Hans Neven, Eugene Ubalijoro, Ed Fields, Dennis Hanna, Guido De Boer and Patricia Hermanns.
The devastation from Hurricane Matthew resulted in an interruption in business. CBL reported major damage at its 150,000-square-foot brewery located at Clifton Pier, as well as damage at two retail stores in Grand Bahama and Abaco. "Total damage and business interruption costs amounted to more than $10 million," stated Neven, who also praised employees who assisted in the restoration of the brewery. "I wish to thank them again publicly and let them know that we were beyond impressed, we were moved by their dedication." CBL also donated over $250,000 to its employees to assist with their individual recoveries following the hurricane.
In 2016 the number of retail stores increased to 57 stores nationwide. The new unifying brand and logo was also introduced, 700 Wines & Spirits. The Todhunter-Mitchel local rums, Ricardo and Ole Nassau, were also rebranded in 2016. The Heineken 16 oz. can and Kalik Light Platinum were launched in 2016 as well with resounding success. Similarly, Coors Light has seen phenomenal growth.
So far, up to May 2017 has seen an impressive start with both retail and trade benefiting from significant growth. Kalik brands and Heineken have outperformed last year as well. CBL has also become the official distributor of British American Tobacco (BAT) in The Bahamas. "While 2016 had its share of challenges, we remain confident that CBL is positioned on the right track for sustainable gains in revenue and profits in 2017 and the coming years," said Neven.

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Baha Mar claims 50 occupancy and 2,100 local staff
Baha Mar claims 50 occupancy and 2,100 local staff

July 19, 2017

THE SLS Lux at Baha Mar is on track for an October or early November opening having met specific markers, according to Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) Bahamas President Graeme Davis yesterday.

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Sands Pink Radler Refreshing the Miss World Bahamas 2017 Experience

July 18, 2017

Two years ago, Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Co. Ltd. (BBB) launched its refreshing radler beer, the Sands Pink Radler. Radler, the German term for a mixture of beer and fruit soda or lemonade, has been a European favorite for years and has recently gained popularity in the American and Bahamian markets...

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Still no date when NHI Authority will be officially established

July 18, 2017

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands confirmed yesterday that the board of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Authority has been selected, but there is still no definite date for when it will be officially established.
Sands told Guardian Business that while the board's establishment is "imminent", it is still a "huge undertaking".
He also acknowledged it is "disappointing" that the board is not "up and running" as yet.
While appearing as a guest on Guardian Radio yesterday, Sands said, "The board has been nominated. The names have been submitted for consideration. The final vetting of every single board for that process continues.
"I believe that when the list of statutory boards are gazetted, at that point, those individuals will be given their letters of appointment and they can get to work."
Sands' comments come on the heels of a press statement by the Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) which raised questions about the legality of NHI.
The BIA raised concerns over what it deemed key elements lacking in the NHI scheme and its legal framework, such as the establishment of the NHI Authority.
The BIA also said it understands the board of the NHI Authority has not been appointed.
It said the absence of the board calls into question the acts undertaken by the NHI Authority in an effort to implement the plan.
But despite the absence of the board, around 25,000 people have enrolled for NHI primary care, according to the BIA.
Sands acknowledged this concern, but pointed out that there could be a counter argument to BIA's concern.
"I suspect that if it were challenged in a court we could point to section nine, I believe, in the act. Then we would have to go back and retroactively validate the decisions that have been made," he said.
Section nine of the NHI Act, 2016 states: "Where it appears to the minister to be requisite in the interest of the public, after consultation with the authority, the minister may give to the authority such directions whether of a general or specific character regarding the discharge of the functions of the authority and the authority shall give effect to any such direction."
However, Sands said, "I don't think we want to get into that. I think what is going to be important is to look at the potential of NHI, and to make the most of it and provide the most value to the Bahamian people," he added.

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Still no pharmacy benefits under NHI

July 18, 2017

Almost three months into the primary care phase of National Health Insurance (NHI), there are still no pharmacy benefits under the program, indicating that pharmacies across The Bahamas have yet to sign on board with the healthcare scheme.
Speaking with Guardian Business yesterday, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said at this point there are no medications available under NHI. "There is, at this point, no pharmacy benefit under NHI," he added.
Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association (BPA) President Michelle Finlayson revealed in May that 53 pharmacies have yet to sign on board with the proposed NHI reimbursement model, as they have a number of concerns that they claim, if left unaddressed, could impair the survival of the local pharmacy industry.
Finlayson continued that the plan for NHI was a bit rushed and there needs to be a bit more dialogue so other stakeholders will not be "disenfranchised".
The health minister acknowledged that pharmacy owners have expressed "serious concerns" about the impact to their survival of the proposed NHI structure and reimbursement schedule.
"I don't think anybody should be forced to cut their own throats," said Sands.
Concerns for stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry range from
procurement to reimbursement and the need for a transition plan.
"I think what we will have to do is arrange a responsible approach to pharmaceutical services and supplies that people can live with," said Sands.
On the other hand, Sands said the current NHI scheme could still work despite the absence of a pharmaceutical arm.
"NHI at this point, in terms of dollar participation in the health economy, is five percent of the health economy. So, $40 million out of $840 million is about five percent.
"So, can it work? Yes, it can still work. NHI is not going to solve every problem... Over time, as NHI evolves, it may play a more important role if it is done properly," he said.

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As public sector reforms, private sector will not ignore inefficiencies, says chamber chief

July 18, 2017

The transformation of the public sector will require the full support of the private sector, CEO of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers' Confederation (BCCEC) Edison Sumner said yesterday at the launch of the Public Financial Management and Performance Monitoring Reform Project, a public sector transformation initiative, adding that the private sector will not always agree with the public sector and will not ignore public sector inefficiencies.
Sumner said that while public-private partnership (PPP), and public-private dialogue (PPD) are effective tools to achieve public sector reform, they in no way mean the private sector will bow to the whims of the public sector.
"To be effective, public sector transformation requires the full support of the private sector since, in large measure, it is the private sector and citizens at large who are most impacted by the work of the public sector," he said.
"Let me stress, however, that having a PPP or PPD does not mean that the private sector will agree to everything the public sector does, and does not mean inefficiencies in the system will be ignored once identified.
"On the other hand, however, the private sector, and more specifically the Chamber, will not identify inefficiencies and challenges without offering solutions to correct those challenges. Further, when considering public sector transformation we must also identify ways to improve the systems within which we operate -- those that make life easier for both public servants as well as those they serve."
Sumner said an example of government working to effect change in the relationship between the public and private sectors is the "conversion of all government services to electronic portals and single window processes" to streamline services and reduce wait times.
The public sector transformation initiative was provided with financial and technical support from the Inter-American Development Bank.
Sumner said the government will have to look at the public service and make a determination in regard to its employees; some have been left in limbo within the system.
"In the work of the National Development Plan, it was determined that nearly 40 percent of all persons working in the public sector were still considered temporary, meaning they are non-permanent and non-pensionable employees, clerical, or miscellaneous," he said.
"The question becomes: is it possible to streamline the public sector? Is it possible to downsize to those who are permanent and pensionable? Or should we make temporary employees permanent?"
He said it is unfair to have these individuals continue in the system without proper status.
He also called for the "distribution of authority" in order to ensure that decisions can be made and procedures carried out with as little bureaucracy as possible.

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Bahamas lost competitive advantage by being expensive to get to, says tourism expert

July 18, 2017

A flight to Miami from New York next week is currently half the price of a New York to Nassau flight, but the average distance disparity between both flights is only seven miles. A tourism expert told Guardian Business yesterday that this country has "eroded its most significant advantage" -- its proximity to the United States -- by being one of the most expensive destinations in the region to get to.
The expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his job, told this paper that The Bahamas has the largest potential for tourism development in the region, but lamented that the archipelago has damaged its brand with high taxes and fees.
Guardian Business checked a fare comparison website and found that a flight from New York to Miami could be purchased next week for $249 through United Airlines and $287 through American Airlines, whereas for the same time period from New York to Nassau, airline charges were $468 through American Airlines and $485 on United Airlines.
"The biggest problem we've had for the longest time is we refuse to understand what our competitive advantage is in the Caribbean," the expert said.
"The U.S. is the biggest economy in the world, which technically allows us to charge a lot more money for our products, compared to people elsewhere, because people look at these vacations in terms of what the total cost is, not just simply what the room rate is or the all-inclusive rate. Because of our location we should have absolutely the lowest cost to get from the United States to The Bahamas.
"We love to talk about room rates and we don't remember that people are talking about total vacation cost, and the total cost includes the cost to get to the destination, and if you look at the total cost to get to The Bahamas, compared to the total cost to get to our competitors, something has long gone wrong."
The expert said The Bahamas should be concerned about Cuba opening up to visitors from the United States. The country has already logged a huge uptick in tourist arrivals since the beginning of the year.
A price check showed that the disparity between a flight from Toronto to Cuba and Toronto to Nassau was only $26. However, the distance disparity between the two destinations was more than 400 miles.
"We have to restore the advantage we have," the expert said.
"Without question we should be worried about Cuba. Anybody who tells you when Cuba opened up that it had no effect, they are absolutely crazy."
Statistics have shown that The Bahamas' tourism product has not grown in 20 years and has been "stagnant because the value for money has eroded".
Currently it is only $30 cheaper to fly to Freeport, Grand Bahama from Ft. Lauderdale than it is to fly from Ft. Lauderdale to Las Vegas, a distance disparity of 2,085 miles. Freeport is only 96 miles from Ft. Lauderdale.
The tourism expert explained that Nassau is one of the biggest cruise destinations in the world, but has not significantly increased its stopover visitors in years, compared to other destinations in the region.
"The big problem is transportation," the expert said. "If you can't fix that, you can't grow your tourism."

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Clearing Banks Association issues 'mystery shopper' scam warning

July 18, 2017

In an effort to promote fraud awareness, the Clearing Banks Association (CBA) issued a notice yesterday about the "mystery shopper" scam, which could result in a victim of fraud being liable for stolen money.
The CBA explained that "fraudsters, to gain the assistance of third-party victims in money laundering", often use the scam.
"The scheme begins with an email or Facebook message offering you a job to carry out an evaluation of the services provided by a money transfer agent such as Western Union or MoneyGram, on behalf of a mystery shopping company," the notice states.
The targeted individual is then asked to confirm whether he or she has an account at a specific bank and to provide personal bank account information, a phone number and a copy of a national ID.
"Once you have confirmed your bank account number you are told that monies will be sent to your account, of which you are able to keep 10 percent and send the balance to the destination that the mystery shopping company wants it sent to," the notice continues.
"Once the monies are credited to your account, you receive another communication via email, Facebook or Whatsapp instructing you to send the money."
However, the notice explains that the funds credited to the bank account are "proceeds from a previous theft".
The circumstances also make it difficult for a victim of fraud to get a refund of the proceeds.
"If you withdraw the funds and send them out, you are liable and will have to pay the bank back," the notice states.
"A money transfer can be paid out the receiver within a very short time.
"After the money is paid, you generally cannot obtain a refund from a money transfer agent, even if the transfer was a result of fraud."

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Govt to take advantage of opportunities in global shipping industry

July 18, 2017

The government of The Bahamas will assist wherever possible to ensure that the opportunities that lay within the shipping industry at the global level are taken advantage of.
Addressing members of the media following a tour of the LJM Maritime Academy yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the global shipping industry is a "new frontier" with untapped potential for The Bahamas.
Minnis said the industry does not only provide great opportunities for economic development for The Bahamas, but can also create "great job opportunities" for untold numbers of Bahamians.
International shipping experts say they expect a shortfall of 147,500 in the number of officers needed onboard these ships by the year 2025. Officer categories that are in short supply include engineer officers at management level and officers for specialized ships such as chemical tankers and liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas carriers.
The experts further say that from 2005 to 2015, the total number of seafarers grew from 1,187,000 in 2005 to 1,647,500 in 2015.
"This is a great market, but we have not tapped into the shipping industry the way we should have," Prime Minister Minnis said. "All of the facilities are here for training and the students - after completing the course - are well-qualified and can perform on any of the ships that are registered or ships that travel throughout the world.
"When you look at the type of income that they make, great resources and income can be sent back to The Bahamas as remittances and that will help to grow our economy," Prime Minister Minnis added.
Minnis said the government will do all it can to ensure that Bahamians are given every opportunity for employment in the shipping industry.
"What I would ask the institute to do is to keep a record of the number of students who enter and the numbers who are successful in job placement, because once you have those statistics available and at your disposal, and once that percentage is high, then not only the government, but the private sector will be more inclined to sponsor and assist students from within The Bahamas to enter the institute, because they will know that the employment success rate is so high that you are essentially guaranteed those individuals will be employed upon completion.
"We see a new employment frontier and we will most certainly take advantage of this new frontier," Minnis added.
According to international maritime officials, the international shipping industry is the "lifeblood" of the global economy, responsible for the carriage of around 90 percent of world trade.
"Without shipping, intercontinental trade, the bulk transport of raw materials, and the import/export of affordable food and manufactured goods would simply not be possible - half the world would starve and the other half would freeze," those officials say.
"Thanks to the growing efficiency of shipping as a mode of transport and increased economic liberalization, prospects for the industry's further growth continue to be strong."
Bahamian officials at the LJM Maritime Academy said maritime affairs could soon rival both the tourism and financial services sectors, the original mainstays of the Bahamian economy.

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BTC sponsors Global Symposium for Regulators

July 18, 2017

Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) was a key sponsor for the Global Symposium for Regulators, which was held in the country last week. The company thought it fitting to support the symposium, which brought together a massive meeting of the minds of regulators and IT professionals across the globe.
The conference's theme, "Living in a World of Digital Opportunities" resonated with BTC as it continues to make meaningful strides to address the challenges related to the geographic and topographical makeup of the country's chain of 700 islands and cays. Over the past few years, BTC has managed a number of initiatives to assist and facilitate the country's long term plans to digitize the country.
"About a decade ago, BTC made a significant investment in the Bahamas Domestic Submarine Network International, connecting 14 Bahamian islands and Haiti," said Nicole Watkins, BTC vice president for legal and regulatory affairs. "We also have the existing four fiber optic submarine cables between The Bahamas and the U.S., connecting us to 14 Caribbean countries. The need to be connected is no longer a privilege, it is a necessity. Access to data is essential, as we continue to modernize our country and propel the discussion of smart cities forward."
BTC Vice President of Enterprise and Strategic Solutions Carlyle Roberts said that BTC is able to meet the local and international needs of its residential and business customers. "We have cable systems that give us the ability to connect directly across the region and to six different data centers to provide data continuity. We have data centers in locations that have favorable data protection laws and data centers outside of the hurricane belt."
Roberts believes that there are many opportunities for The Bahamas to capitalize on technological advancements in different sectors and move toward becoming a "smart city".
"Some of the key ways we will take advantage of this in the next few years are smart health improvements, the implementation of smart transportation, the creation of smart buildings and infrastructure and the application of technology for energy efficiency," he explained.
"For example, we can improve the technology of healthcare to deliver treatments more effectively and cost efficiently. Remote diagnosis allows for consultation with specialists far afield; and e-health would ensure that we have fully electronic records, and could improve speed and service to patients. There are many benefits to making the process more electronic."
Smart infrastructure and buildings could also allow maintenance professionals to receive pertinent information about a structure just by being near it. Roberts claims energy efficiency will also improve as "everything from the meters, to the way we generate energy, or even how we conserve energy, the whole system can work in a connected mode to make the process smarter and deliver more efficiency and better options."
Last year, BTC started a partnership with the registrar general's office to reform the record-keeping practices of births and deaths throughout the islands. Local administrators of Family Islands are now able to process birth certificates and death certificates, in the Berry Islands, Eleuthera and Andros. In addition to its work with the registrar general's office, BTC is still testing the viability of its prepaid metering solution.
BTC was also the official sponsor of the event's gala dinner, which was held at the Baha Mar resort.

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PUBLIC NOTICE-BTC's Fixed Line Phone Equipment Rental Policy

July 18, 2017

BTC advises that effective August 17th 2017, there will be a Rental and Insurance fee of $1.25 m monthly for fixed line phone/equipments...

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CANTO Chair welcomes delegates and speaks on Key Industry Issues

July 17, 2017

CANTO Chairman welcomed ICT delegates to the 33rd CANTO Conference and Exhibition. "A unique experience and a unique event that brings all stakeholders together in one Caribbean ICT space" said the Chairman...

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Callenders Associate Earns Advanced Degree LLM Dist. in Maritime Law
Callenders Associate Earns Advanced Degree LLM (Dist.) in Maritime Law

July 17, 2017

Syneisha Y. Bootle, associate with the law firm of Callenders & Co., has successfully completed her Masterís in Maritime Law, earning an LLM (Dist.) from IMO, Maritime Law Institute in Malta...

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All Systems go at CANTO 2017

July 17, 2017

The CANTO 33rd Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition is set to take place from 16th -19th July at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana Dominican Republic...

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Bahamas Waste continues support of HIV Testing Day

July 17, 2017

At the end of 2015, UNAIDS estimated that approximately 36.7 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS. Of that number, 1.8 million of them were children under the age of 15 and approximately 1 in 8 infected adults do not know their HIV status...

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Eastern Communities Rep BTC
Eastern Communities Rep BTC

July 17, 2017

Over the years, customers of The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) have watched the company evolve, grow and change to keep up with the rapidly changing technology in the telecommunications business. What has not changed however, has been the companyís commitment

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Antigua PM addresses CANTO 2017 Conference

July 17, 2017

The opening ceremony for CANTO's 33rd Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition took place yesterday afternoon before a packed audience which included a cross section of all possible regional stakeholders in ICT at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana Dominican Republic...

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Severe Fiber Damage in Grand Bahama as a Result of a Third Party
Severe Fiber Damage in Grand Bahama as a Result of a Third Party

July 17, 2017

On Saturday, July 15th, at approximately 3:35pm, BTC experienced severe damage to its network as a result of a third party construction company.

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BahamasLocal.com's Sizzling Weekend featuring Reggae Artist Sizzla Kalonji
BahamasLocal.com's Sizzling Weekend featuring Reggae Artist Sizzla Kalonji

July 17, 2017

Once again Heineken sponsored an eventful, entertaining event and BahamasLocal.com was there! This past weekend, hundreds flocked to the JFK Beerfest Grounds to have an experience of a lifetime...

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